Frosh Watch: Texas' Mohamed Bamba is proving to be one of the top-five freshmen
A lot of love for the Big 12 this week, as Freshman of the Week goes to another player in the league
CBS Sports has once again teamed up with the United States Basketball Writers Association and its Wayman Tisdale Freshman of the Year Award. Every Tuesday throughout the regular season we post a Freshman of the Week winner in addition to our Frosh Watch, which is a ranking of the top 10 most statistically impressive freshmen in men's Division I college basketball. The feature works hand in hand with the Tisdale committee and the USBWA. The winner of the award will be announced in March, and a ceremony for all USBWA honors will take place in early April. The cycle for Freshman of the Week consideration starts on Tuesdays and ends Monday nights.
The finalists this week for FOTW were in fact a pair of Iowa State players. Lard beat out teammate Lindell Wigginton, who was on the Frosh Watch early in the season. Wigginton averaged 19.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 2.0 steals -- but also 5.0 turnovers and shot 12 for 31 from the field last week.
Compare that to Lard's performance in ISU's games against Texas Tech and Oklahoma: 20.5 points, 11.0 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 2.0 blocks, 1.5 steals on 17 for 28 shooting while averaging 28 minutes. That's your winner. Plus, Lard managed to shoot 7 for 11 from the foul line, which was a bump up for the 53.3 percent free-throw shooter. In ISU's home win against Oklahoma on Saturday, Lard had 19 points, 17 rebounds, three steals and one foul and turnover apiece.
Against Texas Tech, Lard made 10 of his 11 field-goal attempts.
The 6-9 Lard is a load in the frontcourt. He's been on the fringe of the fringe of the Frosh Watch for most of this season. He's averaging 12.9 points, 8.0 rebounds and is shooting 64.4 percent from the field. If Lard can finish the season at 63.9 percent or higher he will set the Big 12 freshman record for shooting accuracy. In talking to multiple Big 12 coaches over the past week, the sense is that Lard is a fledgling talent who's raw, physical basketball ability makes him a top-four player on the court in any game he plays in.
Had Lard been his Big 12 self to start the season, he'd probably be on the Watch. In league play he's averaging 15.7 points, 9.7 boards and 2.8 blocks. His 48 blocks are already the most for a first-year player in Iowa State history.
If Iowa State can hang on to its pair of bullish freshmen for next season, the Cyclones should work their way back to the NCAA Tournament.
Here are the top 10 freshman performers in college basketball through Feb. 13.
| 1. Trae Young, Oklahoma|
Key stats: 29.5 ppg, 9.4 apg, 4.1 rpg, 1.9 spg
Last week: No. 1
After creating a chasm for his competitors in the first two months of the season, Trae Young has been put on notice by plenty in the past couple of weeks over his supposedly dimming national player of the year campaign. OK, let's entertain the argument for a moment. Young's biggest issue might be his team's lack of success. The Sooners have lost three straight and six of eight. Even though OU was foolishly on the 4 line in Sunday's top-16 reveal, there is a valid argument to be had that a NPOY playing for a No. 6 or 7 seed is a tough sell. Let's see if OU continues to slide, then come back to the issue. Anything aside from that is a thin debate. During his "slump" over the past six games, Young has put up 26.6 points, 8.6 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 1.5 steals. He's shot a frustrating 44 percent, sure. And Oklahoma's gone 2-4. Young's not an inevitable national player of the year recipient, but he's still unquestionably atop the leaderboard. And for the purposes of the Frosh Watch, it is a mortal lock he is taking home this award. Marvin Bagley III and DeAndre Ayton are sitting at his table but they are not in his company.
Kevn Durant and Anthony Davis are the only freshman to win the Naismith Award. Young should become the third.
Next game: Tuesday at Texas Tech.
Bagley was sat for Duke's game on Sunday at Georgia Tech for precautionary reasons. Duke said he sustained a mild right knee sprain in the first half of the UNC game last Thursday. Despite the discomfort, Bagley played 39 minutes, scoring 15 points and grabbing 16 boards. His status for Duke's home tilt on Wednesday for Virginia Tech has not been decided.
Next game: Wednesday vs. Virginia Tech.
Ayton is still without question the third-best freshmen in America at this point, but he's played himself to a firm No. 3 standing because of a drop-off in efficiency over the past few weeks. Since Jan. 20, Ayton is 46-of-88 from 2-point range, a majority of those shots coming within 12 feet. That's a good-enough 52.3-percent clip, but when you watch Ayton play and see how he is a material mismatch against almost every player in the Pac-12, he should be at 60 percent in his sleep.
Next game: Thursday at Arizona State.
UNLV has become the pit-in-your-stomach team for opponents in the Mountain West. The Runnin' Rebels would likely have to run the table and lose in the league championship game in order to have any at-large case, so short of that, they're a great candidate to be a bid stealer. McCoy averaged 13.5 points, 12.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks last week in UNLV's two huge wins -- at Nevada and vs. Wyoming. McCoy fouled out in 23 minutes vs. Nevada, which highlighted his spotty defense. If he were even 40 percent better on that end of the floor, he'd have a shot of leapfrogging Ayton.
Next game: Wednesday vs. Air Force.
Bamba's point total has slowly but surely been rising since mid-December. On the heels of his 16-and-16 showing in Texas' double-OT loss to Baylor on Monday night, it's time to finally slot him into the top five of the Frosh Watch. Bamba's block rate, efficient shooting percentage and defensive rebound rate (he grabs 27.4 percent of opponents' misses when he's on the floor) reinforce his case. For as good as Bamba's been, Texas will need him to be even better. It's a lot to ask for the bubblicious 15-11 Longhorns who now have a road game against Oklahoma and then play at Kansas State.
Next game: Saturday at Oklahoma.
Waters has become and off-and-on scorer for LSU. He had 20 total points last week on 6-of-27 shooting. Waters can be a joy to watch, but the reason why he's almost certainly going to be at least at three-year player is because of his size and his sub-par shooting. Waters is 47.7 from 2 and 34.7 from 3 -- but he's taken more treys than deuces this season (144 to 130).
Next game: Tuesday at Alabama.
Trust me, even though Alabama isn't a traditional basketball powerhouse or Big Dance regular, you want this team in the NCAA Tournament. Sexton is why. And thanks to Alabama's thumping of No. 15 Tennessee, the Crimson Tide is getting ever closer to sewing up their shot. Sexton had 16 points, five rebounds and four assists against the Vols in just 24 minutes. Nice work. On Tuesday night, your must-see man-to-man battle is happening in Tuscaloosa, as Sexton faces up against Waters. Hierarchy in the Frosh Watch very well could be on the line!
Next game: Tuesday vs. LSU.
Turnovers are still Cole's bugaboo (he had eight on Monday night in an 84-56 win over Maryland-Eastern Shore) but that was in addition to 18 points, nine rebounds, six assists and a pair of steals. Cole has helped Howard get to 5-6 in the MEAC. The Bison are second in the league in 3-point percentage in a conference that ranks 28th overall in 3-point accuracy. Howard's playing itself into legitimate MEAC tournament sleeper status.
Next game: Saturday at North Carolina A&T.
9. Wendell Carter, Duke
As expected, Carter played well with Bagley off the floor in Duke's game Sunday against Georgia Tech. He had 19 points and 10 rebounds on 7-of-14 shooting. Carter is such an underrated difference-maker for how he picks his spots shooting 3-pointers. He's at 46.9 percent, but that's on 32 attempts in 25 games. He's picky about his spots, even if some of that is at the instruction of Mike Krzyzewski. Carter's a top-10 freshman to this point because of how well he's played and how important he is to playing most dominant support role in the front court of any player in the ACC.
Next game: Wednesday vs. Virginia Tech.
Nowell slips to 10 after shooting just 14 for 35 in Washington's demoralizing duo of losses against the Oregon schools. Nowell had four fouls in each game and combined for 12 turnovers, too. On the season his averages are still good enough to just barely have him on the Frosh Watch ahead of Colorado's McKinley Wright IV, Iowa State's Lindell Wigginton and Kentucky's Kevin Knox. But with three weeks to go, there's still time for fluctuation in spots 9 and 10.
Next game: Thursday vs. Utah.
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